by Michael Walsh
The British public has been deprived of its boxing fix for well over three months now and we’ve watched on in jealousy as fights in America and some through Europe have started to take place again.
While Frank Warren has announced plans to get going again at the BT Sport studios, Eddie Hearn has been working on his Matchroom Fight Camp cards which will take place in his back garden and if there was ever a fight to get British boxing fans excited by that prospect; Sam Eggington v Ted Cheeseman certainly fits the bill.
I caught up Sam to find out how his preparations were going ahead of the comeback in a very lively super-welterweight division.
“I’ve had about 3 or 4 weeks in the gym but it’s only been me and my coach there each time. Jon (Pegg) is quite paranoid so he’s been isolating and I’ve just had a baby so I’ve been isolating. We’ve been working for about 4 weeks.
“Before this whole lockdown thing was happening I was supposed to fight anyway, on the Channel 5 bill at the end of March. We knew that was going to be rescheduled so I just carried on with what I was doing. I was ticking over.”
Eggington v Cheeseman
A domestic clash with Ted Cheeseman is a fan-friendly fight which has caught the attention of most followers of the sport; two come forward, never say die fighters in a division which is thriving at the moment domestically. I asked Sam how this opportunity came about and what he makes of Cheeseman as a fighter and as his opponent.
“I put out a tweet saying I’ve been training and that I’m ready to go as early as the boxing can come back. Eddie Hearn was straight on the phone to Jon saying there are a few fights on the table, he sent them at the start of May. This fight was one that Jon liked the look of and he said we should go for that.
“Ted is very good, it goes without saying. He had a decent amateur career and he did well professionally up until fighting for the European. But Sergio Garcia is no joke and I don’t think people knew that until after the fight with Ted. I think people thought this is an easy fight to get the European title but it wasn’t and people realised Garcia was better than they thought.
“Don’t get me wrong Ted is good but he drew against Conway, I know a lot of people are saying it should have at least been a draw or he beat Fitzgerald but the fact is he lost for the European, he lost against Fitzgerald and he drew against Conway. Those are the facts. He doesn’t give up, I know that. He is wired in a similar way to me, when things get tough he can carry on going until he has nothing left and I think that will make for a good fight.”
The hunger for money
Before interviewing Sam, I watched an ePress Conference between the pair which was hosted by Eddie Hearn on the Matchroom Boxing YouTube channel. During the discussion, Cheeseman said that Eggington was purely money motivated and suggested that he may not have the same hunger as him to win this fight and advance in boxing.
“The thing is, this has never been a secret, I only turned over to be a journeyman. The only reason I turned over professionally was to earn money so when he is saying: ‘all Sam is here for is the money’ he’s right. That has been the same reason since day one. The money has got bigger, that’s all.
“Money is great, that is what makes the world go round but winning these fights gets you more of that and that is the motivation. People are saying I have no motivation, that is the motivation, to get more money so he isn’t wrong because that has always been my plan from the start. I was only meant to be a journeyman. My career just snowballed into what it is now.
“I boxed as an amateur for about a year before I turned pro. I had a job, I had a son and I got made redundant. I heard about this journeyman stuff and so I went back to my gym, the same amateur gym as Craig Cunningham, he obviously turned over properly and I just said to him that I’d heard about this journeyman stuff and I wanted to speak to his coach. That’s literally where it started from.”
While making no denial that he is driven by monetary success, Eggington still harbours real ambition to progress in the boxing world and he outlined what a win here against Cheeseman does for him.
“I think a win here, with the ranking I’ve already got, would be massive. I know Ted is coming off two losses and a draw but just to defend this IBF title now with the ranking I’ve already got would be huge. With a win and little push up the IBF rankings, I think I’m in the argument for at least an eliminator or something of that sort.
“It would be a huge win for me. He’s a former British champion so there is credibility. A British title is huge, the likes of Jason Welborn and Brian Rose, these people win the British and defend it a few times and get given big title shots. So even to win the British title and be a full British champion gives you that credibility. So to beat Cheeseman, defend the IBF international while beating Cheeseman, I think that will push me up nicely.”
The Italian Job
As he outlines, Eggington finds himself in a promising position heading into this fight, he is ranked fifth by the IBF and holds their International super-welterweight title but if truth be told, had he lost against Orlando Fiodigiglio in that bout in Florence; things could look very different for him.
“I think if I didn’t do a job on the guy if it had gone the opposite way, I think that might have been it for me. So, I just told myself ‘go away, do a job and get back to where I need to be.’ That was the mindset from the start of camp until I was getting the plane home.
“They rang about the fight not long after the Liam Smith fight. If I hadn’t taken the Smith fight and I didn’t lose the Smith fight I don’t think I would have got the opportunity. I think they looked at me as an easy touch after that Liam Smith fight. I went over and I told myself as soon as they rang and John told me about the fight; ‘I’m going over to Italy and I’m going to do a job on this kid and it will put me back where I need to be.’”
The Savage did just that, he blew Fiordigiglio away in two rounds, stunning a lively Italian crowd and getting his career right back on track.
World Title aspirations
I mentioned to Sam that the super-welterweight scene in Britain is looking healthy at the moment, rejuvenated by fresh faces like Anthony Fowler and Scott Fitzgerald and while he recognises they are good fighters, he maintains world title ambitions moving forward.
“At this point, there is no point in me going over to Italy, fighting an international boxer for an international title and a world ranking to then go back and fight British level guys that have won the British or fighting for it.
“I’m not saying I’m any better than them in that way, I’m just saying it seems pointless for me. Unless the British title is on the line, I don’t think it’s worth it.
“Without this Covid-19 situation I don’t think I’d be fighting Cheeseman, I would have went down the international route anyway. But it’s happened and you have to pay the bills, you have to box and do your job. This is why the all-British fights are going to start happening.
“I want to win a world title, I really want to win a world title. I think if I retire without fighting for a world title, that would really upset me more than anything. Of course, winning a world title, it’s never nailed on, it’s a hard thing to do but I’d be upset if I never had the chance to fight for one.”
I told Sam something that he probably hears a lot when doing these sort of interviews, that I couldn’t believe he was still only 26 years of age. It feels like he has been a household name for a long time and he has achieved that reputation by being in big fights from early on in his career, embracing that journeyman attitude to take on anybody but with much more success. I asked him if he felt now was the time to hone in on all of those experiences and enjoy a productive prime in his career and he opened up about where he is at the moment.
“I feel like I’ve grown up and I don’t mean in physical strength. Just my mindset. I’ve realised this is my job and it’s got to be done every day. It’s only after the Liam Smith fight that I started training when I didn’t have a fight booked. Until I had a fight planned, I wasn’t in the gym, that was me done. Jon would ring me and say there’s a fight and as soon as it was confirmed, then I would be in the gym. I think that was stupid of me really and childish. Doing an 8 week camp for a 12 round fight might not have been enough time anyway.
“So, I think mentally I’ve just grown up a lot and matured more than anything, considered this to be my job and I’ve tried to stay close to the weight all year round. I think Covid-19 has done that for me. When everyone thought that boxing had stopped until next year, everyone panicked. They’re all thinking: ‘what am I going to do until next year?’ I was the same. I don’t have a job, I wouldn’t know what I was meant to do. Furlough is only going to keep you going for so long.
“I stayed on it and stayed focus and it’s paid off because I’m probably one of the first boxers out in Britain and it’s a decent fight. So yeah, I just feel mentally I’ve grown up and I’m ready for the big fights. I can’t be pressured into anything because the pressure is long gone for me. I was boxing huge fights at twenty and twenty-one years old. If you’re going to get nervous and scared those are the times. I’ve passed all that nonsense. Give me the big fights and I’ll get ready to the best my ability and do the best job I can. That’s my mindset.”